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Wednesday, April 14, 2004
 

Details of Hockey Death Settlement Released: The terms of the settlement between the NHL and the family of the girl that was killed at a Columbus Blue Jackets game in 2002 was made public this week. Overturning a previous decision, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the family's interest in privacy did not outweigh the public interest in viewing the settlement, which is a public record.

Compare this to yesterday's post, which discussed the Vince Foster case. In that case, the US Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that the family's privacy interest trumped the public interest when it came to photos of Foster's suicide. In the wake of that ruling, a group of Florida newspapers dropped its case seeking to obtain the Dale Earnhardt autopsy photos.

These cases indicate that the nature of the documents is a key issue in determining the scope of the family's privacy rights. Photos of a deceased relative obviously implicate a greater invasion of privacy than does an enumeration of a financial settlement. In addition, knowing the terms of a settlement can serve as a vital tool for attorneys in future similar cases, whereas photos of an autopsy and a crime scene seem to do little to advance the public interest.

My question -- many settlements stipulate that the agreement must remain confidential. Why was such a clause not included in this case?

The family received approximately $700,000 of the $1.2 million settlement, with the attorneys taking a fee of $500,000. Gotta love that forty percent.





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